Friday, March 16, 2012

Prep baseball: New bats result in a new game

(photo by John Lembo)

IMG Acadamies won the Sarasota Baseball Classic's Premier Division on Thursday thanks to a walk-off home run by Alfredo Escalera.

Jason Elias wasn't expecting it at all.

"The game's changed," Elias, the team's head coach, said. "We've spent a lot on time on defense, a lot of time helping our pitchers fill out the zone and baserunning."

The game has changed because the bats have changed. The National Federation of State High School Associations ruled all bats must meet BBCOR peformance standard in order to be legal.

BBCOR stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Resolution, or how lively the ball jumps off the bat. The new BBCOR standard bats are designed to produce hit speeds identical to the speeds produced by a wood bat.

The NCAA began banning composite bats last year, as well, according to this blog.

The rule change is a big reason why Manatee centerfielder Cord Sandberg is using a wood bat this spring. Wood bats do not have to meet the BBCOR standard.

And it's a reason why some teams, such as Elias' IMG squad, have begun utilizing small ball.

"Guys have to have mindsets of hitting line drives and getting on base," Sandberg said. "We're going to have to produce runs other ways."

The Hurricanes were an offensive juggernaut last spring, when they scored 40 runs in three regional playoff games to reach the Class 5A state final four. Yet Sandberg said the Canes have hit just two home runs so far this spring, and Manatee scored 18 runs during its four-game run through the Sarasota Baseball Classic.

It's not as if a slightly diffused offense hurt the Canes - they made the tournament's Elite Division championship game.

"Last year, we could rely on the two-out bomb," Sandberg said. "This year, you kind have got to work on getting guys on base, move them over and just produce runs a couple at a time."

It's a different game. And with the district playoffs scheduled to get underway in a little more than a month, it'll be interesting to see how everything plays out.

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